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low-budget short film


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#1 Olivier Vanaschen

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 10:01 AM

Hello everybody!

A couple of months ago, we went to the UK to shoot a supernatural/horror short film called "Bloodties". It was written and directed by Jimmy Cheng, produced by Aspect Ratio Productions (producer: Rob Fairhurst) and financed by B3Media/UKFC.

It was our first shoot outside of Belgium so we were pretty excited about it. Interesting fact also, the film is part in Chinese part in English. We knew from the very beginning that it's was going to be a big challenge, especially as we didn't have that much experience shooting fiction.

The story is about revenge and takes place mostly in an appartment. We really wanted it to look "asian" in terms of lighting and framing. We went for a soft pastel look with different kinds of atmosphere. The film opens with a scene in a restaurant where the main character had to look very weak and fragile. In front of her, her uncle had to look mysterious and strong. We tried hard to somehow hide his face. As the story progress, she starts to discover her family's past and the film ends with her meeting her uncle again. In this scene, there's a swith of balance, now she's seems to be the strong one and he's looking like a small child. We tried to make him look very small and weak.

Budget was extremely low so we had to use only the equipment we own and had about no crew (we were 3 to 4 to do it all). We build two homemade mini35 adapters for this shoot so we could shoot with our sony fx1 and the productions's z1. We knew it wouldn't be technicaly perfect (our adapter has grain, hot spot,...) but it could fit the look we had in mind pretty well, a bit like shooting with very old lenses :-)

Our lighting equipment was pretty limited: 4 homemade 4-banks, 1 redhead, 1 omni, 1 blonde, 1 homemade "beauty light", 1 chinese lantern and a couple bulb sockets. The set was build in an old bunker from the british army which was pretty cold and humid. We only had a 14kva generator for the whole set (catering included) so we couldn't use that much power anyway. Another problem we did have is that our uk-continental plug adapters did constantly melt if we used more than 2000w on the line so we had to split the lines a lot.

We left the cameras on 3200k setting and shot mostly with a shutter of 1/25 or 1/50, never used the gain but did play with severe underexpose. We knew we could get away with a bit of grain but sometimes it was a bit scary (we laughed about the fact that this was our "panic room"). The rooms were pretty small and the ceilings couldn't be removed (which was really a bad idea for a build set). In order to get a really soft look, we bounced diffused 4-banks (at 5600k mostly) to the walls and ceilings. For some scenes we did add a bit of plus-green or pale-green to the daylight 4-banks to get a more greenish-sick light. The "warm" sources were tungsten 4-banks or redhead with a mix of CTO and CTS (sometimes a bit of pale-green also). We used the 2k blonde for the moonlight with a mix of diffusion and CTB. We also used a lot of practicals in which we placed painted bulbs to get a warmer light. This special paint can be bought in many colors in art shops and it works really well.

We worked with the director to stage the scenes so we could use the two cameras all the time. It was sometimes difficult because of mirrors but it worked well even if we knew some shots were not going to be used at the end but still could help some editing problems. Most of the shots were on a fluid-head tripod or handheld. We had a small crane which we used for a top-shot. The homemade dolly the production had was really not good, so we used it for one shot and decided to avoid it because we did loose too much time using it. Our lens kit is a mix of Nikon AF-D/AI-S lenses (35-50-85mm), Sigma (20mm) and some russian lenses (8-16mm). We only used the 16mm for a couple of shots because it's more a fish-eye lens. The 8mm was used a lot by our lovely set photographer (Anaelle Snoeck) to get some pretty stupid pictures of us, we can post some if you want, probably the stupiest set pictures ever :-) Focus was more than tricky, no follow-focus on slr lenses at f2.0 (our adapter has a gate close to 36x24). It's hard but you somehow get used to it.

It was a hard shoot, especially because it was a night shoot. The bunker was in the middle of the woods so during the day, it was nearly impossible to get clean sound because of birds. We shot for about a week at night with a long long schedule but it was a great experience. We hope we'll be able to shoot another fiction really soon.

We edited a small reel from excerpts of the film. We did the color-correction also on this. Unfortunately, we couldn't make it on the actual short which bothers us a lot. When shooting video, even if most of the look is done in-camera, color-correction is really a major part of the cinematography. It's as important as the lab for film.

Here's the link to the video: Bloodties excerpts

If you have any questions, we'll be happy to answer them :-)

Olivier Vanaschen & Olan Bowland




Here are some pictures of the camera setup:

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that's a lot of empty filter rings :-)

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the end part is a nikon F to M42 mount adapter


Some set pictures:

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Some stills:

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#2 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 11:32 PM

that's a lot of empty filter rings :-)


You can say that again!
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#3 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 04:04 PM

Can you explain the build of you're mini-35?
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#4 Stephen Smith

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 04:51 PM

Can you explain the build of you're mini-35?


i would also be interested in knowing this.
I've had ago at building one myself, it worked alright except the image is upside down, i'm wondering if you got around this problem somehow? or just flipped it in post?
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#5 Mark Allen

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 10:27 PM

Would love to see this at a much higher resolution - something like 960x540. If you make an h264 with dual pass set to medium and automatic keyframes, it will create an uploadable size of movie. Then you can upload the file to blip.tv and share the original link... unless... you are limiting it for security reasons, then that's not a good idea. But most shorts are for publicity.
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#6 Chaz Buhrmann

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 09:18 PM

Please post those set pics, would like to see them :)
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#7 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 04:55 PM

Congratulations!

Your footage looks great.
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#8 Morgan Peline

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 07:20 PM

Hi,

Your trailer looks great! What is the spooky music by the way? I'm also interested in your homemade adaptor - it works really well. Can't wait to see the full film. The lighting was really nice as well! It was also great to see May Choo flexing her acting muscles as well! She very often helps us with our camera/lighting exercises at the film school - great for us 'cos we get to light her but usually a bit unchallenging for her dramatically speaking: 'May can you please go stand in that light, look left and right slowly, and then walk over to that other light and pause intriguingly underneath it. Thanks...' She's been doing really well for herself recently. She was a guest star in a cop drama over here recently - I can't remember what the name of it was though. She's a very nice lady!
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#9 Olivier Vanaschen

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 12:23 PM

Thanks everybody for the feedback! Sorry for the late answer, we've been on a shoot, it was pretty busy week.

Our mini35 is pretty simple, from video camera to 35mm SLR lens, we have:

1. 77mm to 72mm adapter
2. 77mm +10 macro diopter (brand is called Asian, from EBay)
3. Empty rings, a lot to put the ground glass at the right distance. Also to go from 72mm to 52mm
4. Condenser from Optosigma (ref. 023-2570)
5. Ground Glass from Optosigma (ref. 099-0160)
6. Empty rings to get the right focus flange
7. Adapter from 52mm to 42mm
8. Nikon to M42 mount

The picture is flipped, we simply use the on camera LCD screen flipped but no completely closed so the picture is correctly flipped or we use an external LCD screen that flips the picture.


In post, we flip the picture at capture using a function of Cineform's Aspect HD 4.


We don't have a HD master of the projet we shoot on HDV, we only make an uncompressed 16/9 PAL SD Master. For us, shooting HDV is more about getting a sharper SD than really ending with an HD master. When using a mini35 adapter, it's important to start with more resolution because the adapter softens the picture. Starting with HD (even HDV) gives a better end sharpness (in SD) than shooting SD with an adapter at first. If we want to end with an HD master, we would rather shoot S16mm or HDCam but that's a question of budget.

We do have a bigger version, something like 640x360 but we're out of webspace. If you have some space we can upload it or we'll try to find some free space on the web.


Here are some of those stupid set pictures (Canon EOS 10D, Peleng 8mm F-Mount on adapter), don't know if they are that funny but we laughed a lot shooting them.

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Thanks a lot Morgan! It was a real pleasure to work with May, she's a sweet funny person and a real pro! We're pleased to hear she's doing well, she deserves it! (This is a message to all casting directors :) ) The film will unfortunately look a bit different than this reel because we didn't make the grade for different reasons. The production did it and we heard from a screening in London that it did show some artefacts and stuff which we don't have in our reel. It's also way less dark and more saturated which is against what we had in mind first. We must admit we feel a bit sad about it, good lesson for next time. The music from the reel is from Portishead, the song is called "Theme from How to Kill a Dead Man", it's a track from the E.P. Sour Times.


Thanks again everybody!

Edited by Olivier Vanaschen, 01 September 2006 - 12:25 PM.

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#10 Olivier Vanaschen

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 01:39 PM

Here's a link to a bigger version (640x360): http://rapidshare.de...es_big.mov.html

You have to scroll down and click on "free" then wait for 90sec for the download link to appear.
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#11 Jimmy Cheng

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 04:15 PM

Hi Olivier, the footage looks fantastic!

It was definitely a shame we couldn't get Olivier and the boys to do the post production and grading. From the showreel Olivier sent me, I knew we couldn't get the quality for reasons beyond our control.

I emailed Olivier about the bad quality of the screening in London, mainly due to a third generation digibeta transfer because of the last minute sound design.

However Olivier, we need to send off a DVD to various festivals, so if it's possible, maybe the grading can be done after all if you're up for it? I'll check with Rob first but I'm sure it will be cool.

I've got to say Olivier and the team were fantastic and very, very patient. A lot of things went wrong, ie. 4 weeks of pre production compressed into a few days because of unavoidable problems. I spent most of the time trying to work out logistical problems with our a.d. and how to tell the story without compromising the essence of the script. We lost 3 members of our core team which never helps! It was a long shoot to say the least and I spent about 3 months after in post with the same hours, lost 9 pounds in weight and rarely got home to sleep.

When I found out we exceeded the budget by thousands, it was a dark day. I knew the final film wouldn't look as good as it should've been, there was no budget for post production.

Hopefully, if you're available Olivier, maybe you could email me if you still want to do the grading for the finalised cut? We could sort it out before posting it to certain festivals.

There was a lot of enforced cuts for the film which I didn't agree with but hopefully this was because I was too close to the project and they were indeed, the better choices for the film.

If it's possible Olivier, maybe you could send us the settings for the grading and instructions so we can load it up in After Effects? I'd like you and the guys to be proud of your excellent work and to have your work represented in the best way possible.

It would be nice if we can finally get you to do the grading as we originally planned to do.

I'd like to say Olivier is a really open guy with great ideas and a real filming warrior! Maye Choo was the only choice for playing the part, she's absolutely brilliant and super talented with a thorough understanding of character. One of the best actors I've ever worked with and very quick at taking direction.
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#12 Olivier Vanaschen

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 04:54 PM

Quick link to the bigger version: http://www.sebastien...oodties_big.mov
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#13 Jesus Sifuentes

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Posted 11 September 2006 - 06:28 PM

that was intense and raw! what was your specific job on the film? was it DP/Editor/Cameraman? to save webspace you should use http://www.photobucket.com and for streaming video use http://www.youtube.com for the video

love your official website http://www.theblacksheep.be by the way. looks awesome!
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#14 Olivier Vanaschen

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 12:50 PM

Thanks a lot Jesús! The compression on youtube is a bit heavy we find. Today, we've found a nice new webhost for the new version of our website which offers way more space.

Our job was DP/Gaffer/CameraOperators. We did operate two cameras and also had to do all the grip/electrician work. The image department was only the four of us.

Thanks again.
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#15 david west

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 10:57 PM

are you the fellows that did the MARLA video?
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#16 Olivier Vanaschen

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 01:04 PM

Hello David

Yes, we are :-) We did that video more than two years ago, fun project. We can't wait to shoot a real fiction in the near future. We're currently writing the script for a small no-budget feature.

Cheers,
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